Jamaica’s cultural history is a cauldron of winning elements, with food, music, film and dance at the core.
Throughout the years, festivals and other events have been orchestrated to celebrate Jamaican cuisine and music, often with the support of the public and private sector. Annual concerts are even staged for some of Jamaica’s late singers, including Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs and Dennis Brown.
“We need to change the narrative by getting a dancers union or something where we can sit down and strategically decide what to take on first.”— Hall
With the recent death of famed dancer Tippa, how is the dance community faring when it comes to preserving the legacies of its peers?
Esteemed choreographer and Dance Xpressionz principal Orville Hall told BUZZ that the community must first organise itself to handle such task.
“Dance has been a very important part of the whole development of the Jamaican culture from me know myself. However, it has not been shown a certain level of respect, and me woulda like fi help change da narrative deh. However, there are a couple of things we have to take into consideration,” he said.
“I think because these people get a certain level of international recognition, a Dennis Brown, a Bob Marley, a Peter Tosh, and other local entertainers, we kind of jump on the bandwagon to help establish the fact that they are Jamaicans to hold on to the legacy. Two of the most important things I think are hindering dancers from getting to that level is representation and organisation.”
Jamaican dance library
He said Jamaican music always accompanied indigenous dance moves, pointing to the days of ska where “it got international recognition and people were focusing on the music itself. The dance came after, but there was no true representation. People just see the movements and do the movements.”
Adding to the Jamaican dance library are Bogle and Ice, two popular dancers and members of the Black Roses Crew outfit. Bogle, also known as Mr Wacky, contributed moves like ‘Bogle Dance’, ‘Zip It’, ‘Log On’ and ‘Willie Bounce’ before he was murdered in 2005. Ice also fell victim to gun violence three years later, after making moves like ‘Rubba Bounce’, ‘Cobra’, ‘Gully Creepa’ and ‘Twista’.
Black Roses dancer Boysie has committed to continuing the legacy of Bogle, by teaching his moves worldwide and making a bid to turn Mr Wacky’s former home into a museum. Thanks to young dancer Baby Ice there was an extensive dance workshop and lecture held in January in Kingston to honour the legacy of Ice.
But Hall said more can be done if dancers work together.
“Boysie alone cya do it, Baby Ice alone cya do it, me alone cya do it. We need an organisation,” he said.
“There’s the Jamaica Federation of Musicians, and the actors have their thing where they pull a group of people together that can act as the voice for the specific art area. There is none for dance, especially for dancehall. It’s an every man for himself kind of vibe and that is not going to make us able to preserve and carry on the legacy of dancers.”
Only then, he said, will other entities take major interest in financing and supporting the community.
“If dem nuh know nothing bout we dem study we and know seh we love mek noise, talk loud, and get mad and emotional bout things and then after a while it dies out again,” Hall said.
“The other people weh get the government fi rally with them fi do certain things a cause dem organised and smart enough fi know seh that’s the only way fi get things done. We need to change the narrative by getting a dancers union or something where we can sit down and strategically decide what to take on first. Do we start with Bogle and then filter down to the other dancers that passed? What is their legacy? What are we asking to preserve? There are a couple of questions we should ask and then we move forward.”